The main industrial and administrative centre in the north of the kingdom, Irbid is home to the Yarmouk University, the Jordan University of Science and Technology and a good range of services, making it a staging point for exploration further afield to Umm Qais (Gadara), Pella and other nearby sites within the region.
Archaeological evidence reveals that Irbid has been settled since the Bronze Age. During the Roman period, Irbid was known as Arabella. The city's ancient past now lies hidden beneath modern roads and buildings.
In Irbid, almost all means of road transportation arrive at 1 Amman Jadeed Transport Terminal. Once there, you can hire a cab or local bus to anywhere in Irbid.
The 2 JETT Transit Station is just south from here.
To get to Irbid you have to start out from (Tabrbor) Transport Terminal in Amman. Buses to Irbid cost from 1 JD. From the same terminal, the more comfortable coaches run by Hijazi Buses Co. cost 2.10 JD and are more direct as they do not stop between Amman and Irbid.
Ordinary cabs, recognized by their yellow or beige colour, are more expensive. But many of them have air conditioning, so they might be worth a try in the summertime.
You can get anywhere in Irbid by taking one of the many yellow or beige coloured taxi cabs. Unlike in Amman, in Irbid it is rare for a taxi to use the meter, even if you insist. Taxi rides in Irbid will typically be a set cost in increments of 0.5 JD, and you should negotiate the price before you depart. You can also take a "service" taxi or a bus, which have scheduled routes and can drop you off on the way. Ask the locals about the routes, because a) there are no regular departure time tables, and b) buses and taxi cabs wait up to take enough passengers in before taking off. You should not pay more than 0.20 JD
There is not much to see in the town of Irbid, but from there you can go on and visit several ancient sites around the city.
- 1 Irbid Citadel (right in the centre). 08:00-19:00.
- 2 St. George Latin Church (west of the citadel), ☎ .
- 4 Museum of Jordanian Heritage, Yarmouk University (driving from Amman, turn left at the roundabout by the stadium, then right after 500 m (around the stadium), and you will see an entrance about 500 m on the left, with a museum sign. Check in with the officers at the gate and they will direct you to the museum, which is part of the University's Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.), ☎ . Yarmouk University campus - considered by many the finest archeological museum in the country, designed in partnership with the German government.
- Natural History Museum, Yarmouk University (also inside the university, the museum is located in the green hangar #23.). Daily 10:00-17:00/15:00 winter/summer. Exhibits Jordanian fauna and flora. Worth a visit.
- 5 Irbid Archaeological Museum (Dar As-Saraya), Department of Antiquities building, Al-Ma'amun Street, ☎ . Sa-Th 08:00-14:00.
The town's landmark thoroughfare is University Street, with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. The street is also known for its myriad of internet cafes, for which reason Irbid boasts an appropriate entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. Most cafes and coffee shops serve shisha (hookah), for 1.50 JD.
There are many schools and colleges in the Irbid area, including Al-Yarmouk University and Jordan University of Science and Technology. Students are mainly of Arabic background; there are also many American and Malaysian students.
There are many shops in Irbid, especially on University Street and the streets nearby, selling souvenirs, jewelry, and clothing. For international brands and souvenirs Amman is the better choice.
Try Al-Manqal, on University street, which serves decent grills and the usual Middle Eastern fare. You can also try Arabella and Al-Saadi. All of these serve the usual Middle Eastern grills, rice, hummus, and tabbulah. They're relatively cheap, especially for western visitors.
You will find all kinds of Arabic food to enjoy. If you want to eat like the locals, buy felafel sandwiches or hummus from one of the numerous small delicatessen shops. There are also many shawarma restaurants. All of these are very cheap: Shawarma sandwich: 60 piasters; felafel sandwich: 20 piasters; hummus dish to go: 40 piasters.
Finally, McDonald's is close to University Street Roundabout and Yarmouk University. For fast food, there are also Quick Burger, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye's and other places, all on University Street.
If you're looking for something in particular to eat, ask the local residents where you can find a food establishment that serves it.
- Lukmeh Haniyyeh, Rateb Al Batayna Street, Across from Plateen Pharmacy (when entering Irbid on the road from Amman (Sharia’a Al Hus’n), drive until you reach the fourth traffic light (at McDonald's) and turn right. Continue straight and you will see the Irbid Chamber of Commerce on your right, and Lumeh Haniyyeh will be thirty meters beyond that on your left (across the street from Plateen Pharmacy)), ☎ , . Daily 08:30-16:00. Lukmeh Haniyyeh (Delicious Bite) serves up Jordanian classics ranging from a set menu of starters and mua’janat (appetizer pastries) and halouiat (sweets) to a rotating menu of daily specials such as maftool and maqlooba. Even better, it serves a good cause. The kitchen was started by Microfund for Women in partnership with USAID. MFW took under-served women that previously made food products out of their homes, provided them with relevant trainings, and then gave them a kitchen. The food is available to carry out, order by phone or eat in, and all proceeds support the financial empowerment of local women. Starters: 0.10-1.50 JD.
There are no pubs or bars in Irbid. You can, however, find numerous liquor stores in downtown Irbid. These are mainly Christian-run enterprises, open to everyone, and they sell both domestic and international alcohol and beer, at reasonable prices (although you should always ask about prices before buying).
- 1 Irbid Plaza Hotel, University Street (Right at the junction of University and Pr. Muhammad Street), ☎ . Rated higher than Al-Joud/Joude, though not high end. Double 37 JD.
- 2 Al-Joud Hotel (Joude Hotel), Al Jamaa Street, ☎ . This hotel is most frequented by western visitors, close to University Street "circle". Always agree on prices before checking in. Many Israelis and Israeli Arabs use the hotel. For security reasons, a police guard has been posted there recently. Prices are relatively reasonable; so, if you can afford it, go ahead and check in because you won't find alternatives of the same standard in Irbid. Double 50 JD.
The hotels in the downtown area are old but cheaper than Al-Joud. The downtown, typically Levantine, boasts old buildings and it's noisy from the nearby traffic and people enjoying the night out.
To get to the following sites, either take service buses or taxis. Taxi fare shouldn't exceed 10 JD.
- Jerash (and the Islamic Ajlun (Ajloun) Castle) — An ancient Roman City, and besides Petra and Wadi Rum, the most famous site in Jordan.
- Umm Qais — A town north, almost 20 minutes from Irbid, is a Roman era settlement, close to the ruins of the ancient Gadara. Best reached by (rental) car or taxi.
- Pella – Ancient ruins.